Alex McLeish has admitted Declan Rice’s absence could “ruin” the momentum West Ham have built up in recent weeks.
The former Scotland boss, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, suggested the Irons may struggle without the midfielder’s power and presence.
West Ham confirmed on Monday the 22-year-old had suffered lateral knee ligament damage while on international duty.
While the Irons did not offer a potential return date, Sky Sports report he could be out of action for up to a month.
As such, he could sit out games against Leicester City, Newcastle United, Chelsea and possibly Burnley at the start of May.
He already missed the Hammers’ 3-2 win over Wolves, with Mark Noble taking his place in midfield.
However, McLeish admitted Rice’s absence was a bitter blow for the Hammers.
McLeish told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge: “Every time I see him I think he’s getting better and better. It’s not just in that holding role, he’s actually been surging forward in recent games.
“The confidence of the guy, the fact that he’s on the wanted list of a few of the very top clubs, makes estimations of the boy go even higher. The very first time I saw him in that role I thought: ‘Is he quick enough?’
“He’s got everything – power in his running, acceleration over short distances, he’s over six foot two or three. He is capable of scoring and defending at set-pieces. He’s got it all.
“That is hard to replace guys like that, believe me. It can ruin and it can affect your momentum. The Hammers are on a phenomenal run of form. I know Arsenal clawed them back and Wolves nearly did it too.
“To lose any key players for teams with smaller squads, it can affect them extremely badly.”